English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I always thought the proper spelling was  judgment, but I see  judgement all the time, even in articles, news, etc. Merriam-Webster lists  judgement as a variant spelling for judgment.

But is the proper spelling  judgment? I feel like I’m in the minority on this.

share|improve this question
It doesn’t matter which one you use; just pick whichever you feel like and stick to that within any given document. – tchrist Feb 5 '12 at 15:03
But get over your horror of the other spelling. – GEdgar Dec 17 '12 at 21:59
up vote 22 down vote accepted

I looked in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), and the British National Corpus (BNC), and found this data:


1        JUDGMENT   15116
2        JUDGEMENT  584

Ratio in American usage: 25 to 1 in favor of judgment


1        JUDGMENT   3220
2        JUDGEMENT  2441

Ratio in British usage: 1.3 to 1 in favor of judgment

So, it does appear that while judgment is more common in both British and American English, judgement enjoys a substantial percentage of usage in British English, but much less in American English.

Addendum: per ShreevatsaR’s suggestion, I searched the BNC again, this time excluding all the spoken sections (“S_*”) as well as the two written legal sections: “W_nonac_law”, “W_ac_law_edu”, and got these results

1        JUDGEMENT  2053
2        JUDGMENT   1317

We do now find the numbers inverted: the ratio of judgment to judgement is just 0.64. Although many of the examples remaining of judgment are in fact in a legal context anyway, we do find, though, that the spelling judgment nevertheless enjoys considerable usage in non-legal contexts. Here are a few examples:

  • “Efficiency at work is decreased and judgment impaired, with possible serious results.”
  • “There I had him as a charming, affectionate colleague of mature judgment.”
  • “It is not pleasant for a human being to pass judgment on another and say that he is evil through and through without any redeeming features”
  • Judgment of humorous writing is even more subjective than with any other kind.”
share|improve this answer
You'd get a much different distribution in British usage if you excluded legal contexts (e.g. whatever W_ac_polit_law_edu is). How does one check this? – ShreevatsaR Aug 26 '10 at 2:19
Thanks for modifying and searching again, BTW. I'd already upvoted this so I can't upvote again. :-) [It seems that with the British corpus, if you leave out newspapers and academic works (or at least social science works), you get a even more skewed distribution in favour of "judgement". The use of American spellings seems common in academic works: e.g. in India, British spellings are generally used but scientific publications tend to use American spellings.] – ShreevatsaR Aug 29 '10 at 7:29
+1 fascinating breakdown of data. – Andrew Grimm Dec 17 '12 at 21:38
I have of late noticed that the Economist uses the judgment spelling in its own writing, but does not respell judgement if it comes in that way in letters — and that the longer spelling seems to be more common in those. – tchrist Dec 17 '12 at 23:39
Google Trends is always fun to look at in these situations. – mattblang Sep 16 '13 at 15:05

Both the spellings are correct; which one is used depends on the context, and the English dialect.

As reported by the New Oxford American Dictionary:

In British English, the normal spelling in general contexts is judgement. However, the spelling judgment is conventional in legal contexts, and standard in North American English.

share|improve this answer
Interesting that in British legal contexts they use "judgment". – Kosmonaut Aug 22 '10 at 2:59
@Kosmonaut: that's to avoid ambiguity, when you say that the judge's judgment showed good judgement. – TimLymington May 14 '11 at 23:02
@TimLymington: I'm not sure that logic really holds up. How many words exist with both an everyday meaning and a legal meaning? A huge amount: case, action, answer, appeal, recess, discovery, etc., just to name a few. There is no problem with spelling these words the same in both contexts. Furthermore, the word judgment is spelled the same in the US in all contexts, and there is no ambiguity problem. – Kosmonaut May 15 '11 at 0:47
@TimLymington: But I don't think there is historical evidence for that. – Kosmonaut May 29 '11 at 20:23
Ah, but British judges move with the times - they seem to be quite in favour of sentence fragments nowadays. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 17 '12 at 20:40

I grew up spelling it with the "e" in the middle. I can almost remember when this changed, but not quite. Leaving out the "e" defies the rules of pronunciation I learned. Without the "e" the "g" in "judgment" becomes the hard "g." I believe the only correct spelling is "judgement." I don't know who changed it, or why; it just needs to be changed back.

share|improve this answer
I certainly hope you’re not old enough to remember when the e was lost, because it happened in the early 1500s. If you are, I’d have to say your avatar doesn’t look a day over 400! ‘Judgement’ is not the “only correct spelling”, it’s just the one you grew up with. Getting rid of the e does not ‘alter’ the pronunciation of dg. The letters used to describe the sounds in a word are arbitrary in English and cannot be ‘altered’. Poor Lord Edgware would be most displeased (if he weren’t already dead, of course). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 19 '14 at 20:07

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.